Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Maturation of Matt Frattin

Matt Frattin was a fourth round draft pick, 99th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2007. He was coming off a rookie of the year performance in the Alberta Junior League, scoring 83 points for Fort Saskatchewan. Frattin progressed through his first two years at the University of North Dakota collecting 15 and 25 points. Prior to his third year with the Fighting Sioux Frattin had two run-ins with the law. In July of 2009, he and a friend were arrested for throwing various items from the roof of a house. One month later, just before the school year began, he received a DWI. UND suspended Frattin and he went home to Edmonton to face his parents and friends. He got a job pouring concrete and took advice from family members and friends. He went back to North Dakota in December without his scholarship and had to earn his way back on the hockey team. His teammates, and more importantly his coach saw a change in him and accepted him back into the fold. Frattin scored 11 goals and 19 points in the second half of the season and came back even stronger this year after the charges against him were eventually dropped. With 36 goals in 43 games, Matt Frattin topped the entire NCAA and his 60 points were good for second. He was named WCHA MVP and is now a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as top player in the nation. Frattin and the Fighting Sioux are finalists in the Frozen Four final and once their season is complete Toronto will be able to sign him to a pro contract. If not signed by Aug 15 Frattin who turned 23 in January becomes a UFA and one would think there will be multiple suitors.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Henrik Sedin, Assist Consistency & Other Milestones

Last week, Henrik Sedin recorded his 70th assist of the season for the third time in his career. He is only the 16th player to notch 70 helpers at least three times, Gretzky leads with 16 such seasons. Some unexpected guys that never did this are Bobby Clarke, Ron Francis, Steve Yzerman and Joe Thornton. As well it is the fifth consecutive year in which Henrik has tallied at least 60 assists, joining an even more exclusive group. Only 13 players have done this, and only six of them have done it more times than Hank's five straight. Most Consecutive Seasons with at least 60 Assists

  • Wayne Gretzky, 13

  • Bobby Orr, 6

  • Guy Lafleur, 6

  • Peter Stastny, 6

  • Bernie Federko, 6

  • Adam Oates, 6

  • Joe Thornton, 5

  • Phil Esposito, 5

  • Doug Gilmour, 5

  • Bryan Trottier, 5

  • Ray Bourque, 5

  • Paul Coffey, 5

  • Henrik Sedin, 5

On Monday night, two other milestones were achieved. Teemu Selanne, with his third point of the game and 73rd of the season, assured himself of finishing with at least one point-per-game this year. He is only the third player 40 years or older to accomplish this joining Gordie Howe (103 pts in 68/69) and Johnny Bucyk (83 points in 75/76).

Also, Niklas Lidstrom scored his 15th goal for the ninth time in his career. Only seven other defensemen have scored 15 in that many seasons. Ray Bourque leads the pack with 18 seasons of 15 goals followed by Phil Housley with 13 and Denis Potvin with 12. Others are Al MacInnis, Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch and one name that may surprise. Reed Larson scored at least 15 goals in nine different seasons. Larson did it nine straight times (his first nine full years on top of that), only Bourque, Housley and Coffey can match that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hanging with the King

This past Thursday night I played in a four on four tourney called the Pacific Hockey Artists Tournament or PHAT for short. We had six teams of six guys and played each other team in eight minute running time games. All the participants were from the arts community including guys like Craig Northey (The Odds), Dave Ogilve (Skinny Puppy), Brent Belke (SNFU) and Grant Lawrence (The Smugglers & CBC Radio). However, the biggest star we had out was ex-Canuck goaltender "King" Richard Brodeur.

Brodeur is an accomplished painter in his post-playing career and was more than willing to come out and support the local arts/hockey community. The picture is right after I brought The King a pop at the time keeper box where he was watching the action. He was more than appreciative.
I had a chance to chat with him at greater length after the games were done at the post-tournament gathering.

About thirty of us went to a nearby watering-hole to eat, drink and trade stories and verbal jabs.
I talked to Brodeur about the old WHA days and in his own words he said, "Those last few years of the WHA, the hockey was just as good as the NHL. I brought up the Birmingham "Baby" Bulls and their roster of youngsters who would go on to star in the NHL including Michel Goulet, Rick Vaive, Craig Hartsburg and Rob Ramage. In fact, the top seven point men in the final yearof the WHA all went on to have great success in the NHL. Real Cloutier, Robbie Ftorek, Kent Nilsson, Mark Howe, Morris Lukopwich, Marc Tardif and of course Wayne Gretzky all starred in the established league. When you add in Terry Ruskowski, Mike Rogers, Blair MacDonald, Mike Gartner and Blaine Stoughton the point is even clearer.

I asked Brodeur what he thought of the chances of Quebec returning to the NHL, seeing as he was an original and long-time Nordique. He told me of an event happening this coming Tuesday at Le Colisee. They have sold out the rink at $15 each to WATCH the Atlanta Thrashers play at Montreal on the big screen to show that they deserve a team. They're calling the event Le Match Bleu, and it will hopefully go along way to helping Quebec get back into the NHL.

Richard Brodeur not only proved to be a genuine nice guy, but also a nice source of hockey info.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

King James, Felix and the Turk

James Reimer. The kid looks to be for real. If only Burkie brought him up in November instead of January. Now that he has played enough games and qualified for goaltending categories (at least 1/3 of a teams games) Reimer is showing up on the NHL leaderboards. He sits tied with Jonas Hiller for fourth overall in Save Percentage with .925 behind only Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo. The number is far and away the best among rookie tenders. His Point Pct. from a 16-7-4 record rank fourth league-wide behind Thomas, Luongo and Michal Neuvirth.

Since the All-Star break "Optimus Reim" is fourth in the NHL in Wins with 12, behind Antti Niemi, Ilya Bryzgalov and Mikka Kiprusoff and his 3 shutouts are only one back of leader Carey Price. Those three white-washings are only two off the Toronto rookie record and the most by a Leaf rookie since Mike Palmateer had four in 76/77. Before that it was the two rookies with five shutouts, Ed Chadwick in 56/57 and Al Rollins in 50/51.

Remember, Reimer just last week turned 23 years old and therefore is considered 22 for this season. Among Leaf rookie goaltenders that young, he is one of only three to have at least 15 victories and a GAA of 2.50 or less. Reimer sits at 16 wins and a 2.49 GAA, Felix Potvin at 22 years old in 92/93 won 25 and had an average of 2.50. The other was Turk Broda with 22 wins and a 2.30 average in 1936/37 at the age of 21.

Interestingly, over their 80 plus years of existence, the Leafs have had a rookie goalie play at least 30 games on only 12 different occaisons. Reimer's next game will be his 30th. The names range from Broda, Frank McCool, Palmateer, Potvin, Allan Bester and Jonas Gustavsson to Ron Low, Jiri Chra, Tim Bernhardt and Peter Ing.

While Reimer may not quite be having the greatest Leaf rookie goalie year ever, he certainly is having one of the most surprising ones.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Matt Cooke, An asshole even in beer league hockey.

Matt Cooke comes across as a little prick. I can safely say that most anyone who follows hockey on an even semi-regular basis would share that opinion. I can tell from actual experience that this is the truth. You see, just over six years ago, the one and only Matt Cooke (then of the Vancouver Canucks) played against my squad in a regulation beer league game.

It was January 31, 2005, a Monday night game. A Monday night game at 10:30 no less, at Burnaby, BC's Eight Rinks Facility. I was playing on a team in the third tier of men's hockey, third out of sixteen divisions so not quite elite beer league hockey but better than most. About ten minutes before puck drop, a league official came into our room and asked if we'd be fine with the other team dressing Matt Cooke. I'm not sure if they asked out of common courtesy or what, because anybody can play in that league seeing as it wasn't a playoff game. Even locked out NHL players.

The rink was also the home to the Canucks training facilty but they weren't doing training of any sort as the league was in the throes of the lockout that wiped out the entire season. I assume Cooke was buddy's with one of the guys on the other team, but for the life of me still can't figure out why he wanted to skate at 10:30 on a Monday night. Anyway, of course we allowed him to play.

Cooke played defense the entire game so as not to over-exert himself and I suppose so he wouldn't embarrass us with his offensive prowess. I mean the guy HAD scored 15 goals in the NHL and this WAS Div. 3 beer league. In the end he was an absolute non-factor as we beat them 5-2.

Right from the get-go Mr. Cooke was yapping. I have played ALOT of beer league games over the last 20 years (probably close to 1000) and you do at times come across guys that are just assholes. Cooke was indeed one of them. He kept whining about our guys getting even the slightest bit physical with him. The league is technically "non-contact", but that really only means no open-ice hitting. Rubbing out along the boards is acceptable and common. Well, Cookie appeared to be afraid he was going to blow out a knee or something and seemed to think it was taboo to touch him, that he should be off-limits. When a few guys actually did get close to him he just kept on whining. In fact my pal Ian must have gotten under his skin the most as Cooke threatened to "beat him up" near the end of the contest. I recall Cooke once even took a "mock" swing of the stick at one of our guys behind the play, not to actually hit him but just to be a prick.
Turns out, Cooke himself actually took a two minute penalty for Body Checking and he was on the ice when I opened the scoring with a short-handed goal ten minutes into the first. He took a few face-offs as well, and I know I beat him at least once.

I'm fully aware of the fact that Cooke was utilizing far from full effort, but he literally did nothing offensively. He made some passes up the middle trying to unsuccessfully spring guys that were as hard as most of our slap shots. That was about it. I don't think he had a shot on net.

As far as ex-pro's I've played with or against over the last few years Cooke was one of the least impressive. Sasha "The Masha"Lakovic scored a hat-trick against us a few years ago and I think I was probably most impressed by referee Shayne Heyer who played against us during the 1994/95 work stoppage and was not only huge, but slick with the puck...and he seemed like a nice guy. Three things Matt Cooke was not.

To see the boxscore for my Matt Cooke game click the title at the top.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maple Leaf Gardens, The Beginning

I found these cool shots in an old program. Some great pictures of the building of Maple Leaf Gardens that I had never seen before. It still amazes me that Conn Smythe built this place in six months, during the depression no less. Below is the corner of Church and Carlton Streets before the Gardens took over.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gump Concussed by a Tossed Egg

44 years ago today, Lorne "Gump" Worsley was knocked out of an NHL game after being hit in the temple with an egg thrown from the stands. It was at Madison Square Garden in New York and Gump had just surrendered the first goal of the game to Jean Ratelle in the third minute.
The Montreal Gazette reported, "The Gumper was hit flush on the right temple by the egg which was thrown from about 100 feet away...the egg-tosser, a 25 year-old fan who had a bag of them when caught by Garden police, got off lucky when Worsley refused to press charges."

The next day Worsley took part in a voluntary practice and it was thought he would be ready if called upon for the next game. Gump described the incident, "It hit me flush on the temple just after the goal was scored. I didn't know it was an egg until I felt the gook. The doctor said it was a mild concussion and I still feel a bit dizzy." The concussion would prove to be somewhat more than mild as the Gump would in fact not set foot in game for over 6 weeks. His next appearance was in game five of the Stanley Cup Finals against Toronto.

The 1966/67 campaign had not been kind to Lorne Worsley. The previous year he'd won the Vezina Trophy and led the Habs to their second straight Cup. The season began fine enough, as Montreal had allowed the fewest goals into early December and were only 4 points behind first place Toronto. However, in a 6-3 victory over the Leafs on Dec. 7 Worsley was forced to come out after two periods with what was thought to be a pulled muscle in his leg. He was replaced by Charlie Hodge and the next day was listed as having a knee injury. Gump attempted to work through it, but on Dec 18 he had surgery to remove torn cartilidge. Doctor's said he would be out for another six weeks.

Right on schedule, he was able to replace Hodge for the 2nd and 3rd periods of a 6-1 loss to Detroit on Feb.5. The next game, Feb.8 he would do the same, this time taking over for Hodge after two quick goals at the 8 minute mark of the first. Gump started the next match on Feb.11 against Boston, but this time it was Hodge replacing him after he re-injured the knee halfway through.

21 year old, Rogatien "Rogie" Vachon was called up from the Houston Apollos of the Central League to back-up Hodge. After a couple losses by Hodge, the rookie Vachon carried the mail for seven straight games into mid-March. Gumper was good to go again on March 11 and tied Chicago 3-3, before being egg-concussed the following night in New York. Vachon stepped right back in and went 8-0-1 playing the nine remaining games of the schedule.

Entering the playoff matchup with the Rangers, coach Toe Blake had no choice but to go with the hot rookie in net with Worsley now healthy and ready. Vachon did not disappoint as Montreal swept New York and moved onto the final against Toronto. Vachon continued his run until game five of the Cup final when Gump finally stepped in after two periods. He stopped all 10 shots in the 4-1 loss that put Toronto up 3 games to 2. Worsley started and played well in game six, stopping 33 of 35 shots as the Leafs won 3-1 with an empty net goal.

Rogie and The Gump shared goaltending duties for the next two seasons, winning two more Cups and another Vezina. As well as Vachon had played in a substitute role for the egg-splattered Gump in 1967, the Habs would have most likely been better off having a healthy Worsley down the stretch and in prime form for the playoffs. It may very well be that a 25 year old New York hockey "fan" with a bag of eggs prevented the Habs from winning five straight Cups.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Little Saturday Fun

We here at Nitzy's Hockey Den try to be purveyors of hockey research and history.... factual, real history. Today I provide a little fake history as a change of pace.
Over the last year I have been collecting vintage hockey equipment just for fun. I first picked up some TruLine Custom skates. They're an entirely leather boot with about as much ankle support as a wet noodle. The blades are the classic "tube style" and are about an inch longer than my current skates, plus there is no rocker on them. They date to about the early to mid-1960's.

The gloves I got on ebay for $25 and are in fantastic shape. They are made by Cooper-Weeks and have such sophisticated features as "Genuine Cowhide" "Shock Shield" cuffs, "Armourflea Thumb" and "Magic Grip" palm. I believe they date to the late '50s.

The stick is a CCM Senior, plain and simple wood stick from the '60s. It's just about as straight as can be, but it is labelled RIGHT on it. I shoot left personally, but the "curve" is so minimal it didn't really matter.

The jersey is actually a mid-30s replica, but I had to fudge it closer to the equipment's age so I called it 1948.

I went out before a shinny skate my team had at the old rink in North Vancouver and just shot a little footage. There's no way I was going to play in even a shinny game with those skates and no helmet. Safety first at Nitzy's Hockey Den.
Higher quality copy of the video on YouTube...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Game Report; Feb 17, 1968 Rangers at Maple Leafs

This is the newest addition to the den, and it's terrific cover of Frank Mahovlich puts it right in the centre of my vintage programme display (I like the old fashion spelling of programme). This was from a Saturday night game at Maple Leaf Gardens between two teams battling for the last playoff spot in the East Division.

Entering this match New York held down the fourth and final post-season slot with a record of 25-18-11 for 61 points. Toronto was six points back at 23-22-9. The Rangers were led by the dynamic duo of Rod Gilbert and Jean Ratelle who were each scoring at a point per game pace in a season when only six men would finish at that rate. The Leafs were less than a year removed from their last Cup win (boy that just looks strange in writing), and were still led by the likes of Dave Keon, Johnny Bower and Mahovlich. They would be led in scoring by 23 year old Mike Walton who in his first full season notched 30 goals and 59 points.

Leaf captain George Armstrong opened the scoring this night with the only goal of the opening period assisted by Keon and Walton. New York took the lead in the second with two goals in 39 seconds by Gilbert and Ratelle, each assisting on each other's marker. Leaf defender Larry Hillman tied it up with his third of the season two minutes later assisted once again by Keon and Walton.

Rod Gilbert scored the eventual winner at 12:15 of the third as the Rangers peppered Bower with 39 shots throughout the game. The Leafs would fire 30 at Ed Giacomin, but it was the last one that didn't count that really hurt. Bob Pulford appeared to have tied the match at the final buzzer, but the green light had already been lit just prior to the red light going on. The referee Bill Friday soon ended any argument by ruling no goal and the game over. Leaf coach Punch Imlach stated afterwards, "These kind of breaks aren't going to go against us forever. If we have to make the playoffs in the final week of the season, we will." He added bitterly, "We'll beat everyone to do it-ourselves, referees, the other teams and goal judges."

Imlach was wrong. For the first time since he took over the team in the late '50s, Toronto failed to make the playoffs. They fell a mere four points short of Chicago but that number is deceptive. They were actually eliminated with six games remaining when they were 14 points in arrears of the Hawks. Toronto won five of it's last six while Chicago lost their last six games.

In fact, prior to their late playoff push Imlach had shaken up the team by trading the Big M, Frank Mahovlich. This Saturday night in February night would be one of Mahovlich's last games as a Leaf. On March 3, he along with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and Carl Brewer were sent to Detroit for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie.

The Rangers would continue their hot streak and go 14-5-1 on the way to a second place finish, four back of Montreal. They would however lose four games to two in the first round to Chicago, who had lost their last six and nine of their last twelve regular season games. Mahovlich would go on to win two more Cups with Montreal, while the Leafs are still waiting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bruce Gamble, The Return to Glory in '66

With a career NHL won-lost record of 18-52-11, goaltender Bruce Gamble chose to sit out the 1964/65 hockey season. The reason wasn't so much his own performance, he had after all gone 145-112-28 in the minors since 1958, the reason was Eddie Shore. Gamble would rather not play hockey than play any longer for the tyrannical owner and coach of the AHL's Springfield Indians. Shore suspended him, and Bruce Gamble went home to Thunder Bay, Ont. to work in the local grain elevators.

Toronto Maple Leaf GM and coach rescued Gamble from the clutches of Shore in Sept. 1965 by trading two players to Springfield and a few months later, Gamble re-payed the favour. After injuries to Leaf goalies Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk and fill-ins Gary and Al Smith, Imlach summoned for Gamble from Tulsa of the Central League.

On March 2, 1966 he started against the Canadiens, and stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 3-3 tie. Imlach threw him back in the next night of the home and home set, although he had not many other options. Gamble shut out the Habs in a 4-0 win. Two nights later he shut out Chicago 5-0.
Over the next week, Bruce Gamble won three more times, 5-3 over Boston, 1-0 over Detroit and 6-0 against the Bruins again.

After a week and a half back in the NHL, Gamble had gone 5-0-1 with a GAA of 1.00 and 4 shutouts. After a 5-1 loss to the Hawks on March 13 Punch Imlach said `I told Bruce before the game I should send him back to Tulsa before his luck ran out`. It did. In the next game against Montreal, stretching to stop a Jean Beliveau drive, he pulled his hamstring. Bower was just well enough to replace him. Gamble returned to play just over two additional periods the rest of the season. He was back to help win a Cup the following season and would be the Leafs number one until Feb. 1971. He was then traded to the Flyers along with Mike Walton for Bernie Parent.

Just over one year later, while playing the Canucks in Vancouver Gamble suffered a heart attack. In the third period of the game he fell and could not get up. He asked defenseman Barry Ashbee who had hit him and was told nobody. This was the end of the career for Bruce Gamble.
He became a scout for the Flyers and passed away from another heart attack in 1982 at the age of 44.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Luke Schenn is having a nice season.

One may look at the 16 points and minus 1 rating for Luke Schenn this year and assume he is having a poor season. Nothing could be further from the truth however. For one thing his average ice-time per game of 22:30 is higher than that of more reknowned defensemen Chris Pronger, Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Myers and Bryan McCabe. Perhaps that is a statement of the overall calibre of Toronto's defense brigade, but some other numbers show that Schenn is earning his playing time.

Schenn is first among defenders in Hits with 206, 22 more than second place Brent Seabrook and he sits 7th among D-men in Blocked Shots with 144. When these two categories are combined we get a real nice example of defensive prowess. Schenn is first overall among NHL defensemen in combined Hits and Blocks.

  1. Schenn, Tor 350
  2. Girardi, NYR 345
  3. Zanon, Minn 305
  4. Seabrook, Chi 302
  5. Gleason, Car 284
  6. Peckham, Edm 283
  7. Robidas, Dal 283
  8. Weber, Nsh 274
  9. Seidenberg,Bos 271
  10. Giordano,Calg 269

Not alot of big point producers on the list, but it's obvious that value is determined in stats other than goals and assists for defensemen, and Luke Schenn is definitely among the best of the under-rated young d-men in the game today.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scrambles, Flicksies and Leaners; The Art of Childhood Hockey Card Collecting

Later this summer I will be reaching a milestone birthday (I was born in '71, you do the math) and I find myself reminiscing more than usual. Recently I was thinking about when I first really took to the sport of hockey, and the things that helped mold the passion I still have for it today.

It pretty much started when I began seriously collecting hockey cards at the age of 8. O-Pee-Chee 1979/80 was my introduction to the hobby and was really the first time in a young boys' life where you are in control of filling your wants and needs (insert joke here). This is a time when if there is a need in your hockey card set you went out and tryed to fill it. Also, you could wield power over others that perhaps coveted something of yours. Wow, getting pretty deep here. OK, back to hockey cards.

Pretty much any quarter that came into my hands back then was quickly run up the street to Mac’s Milk for another pack of cards. My friends and I had so many extra cards that we would hold “Scrambles” sessions in the school yard on a weekly basis. Every once in a while someone would bring in a stack of their doubles, triple and quadruples for the sole purpose of giving them away. It usually happened during our regular card trading session at the start of recess, one of the guys would merely take his unwanted cards, gather the rest of the boys around and yell “Scrambles”. He then tossed the cards up in the air in chunks of 10 or 20 while the rest of us clamoured over each other to retrieve the cardboard currency. It was something of a status symbol to be able to toss away your refuse and to have it wanted by the others. The thing was, a few of those cards may actually have been very important to your own collections' needs. Even if they weren’t the big stars of the sport, if it was a card you needed it was in great demand. I remember my 1981/82 set coming down to a Hartford Whaler by the name of Don Nachbaur. Indeed, I got the much desired card in a schoolyard Scramble.

Obviously back then we weren’t too concerned about the condition of these cards, more about the fact that we simply had the card we needed in our greasy little hands. We would carefully peel out stickers that were already stuck into our hockey sticker collection books and trade those as well. The new acquisition would be expertly taped into place in your own collection. Many a trade was called off when, while attempting to peel a desired sticker from a book, the school bus hit a pothole prompting a clean rip through the sticker. Sure we didn’t care that much about condition, but we weren’t animals…

This brings back to memory another game we played in school with our hockey card collections. The game was called “Flicksies” and usually took place indoors during a rainy-day classroom recess. Some may be more familiar with a game called “Leaners” which we did dabble in, and involved a more delicate touch. For each game, competitors (usually 3 or 4 of us) kneeled side by side about 8 feet from a wall. In Leaners the object was to carefully toss one card from your stack of extras and have it come to a leaning position against the wall. Upon doing this successfully the player got to keep all the cards that had been unsuccessfully tossed to that point. Our more preferred game of Flicksies was a much more violent and card damaging affair. Each player would start by lining up the same amount of cards (6 or 8) in a leaning position to start the game. We then took turns from our knees 8 feet away flicking one card at a time at the leaners. Whatever you knocked down, you retrieved and put into your stack. Last man standing wins. This of course left your cards with hellacious bends in the corners from striking the brick wall. Once again, we were 8 years old, the condition of the cards mattered not to us.

This card above was a regular in the Flicksies and Scrambles rotation, not because we didn't worship the Great One but mainly because each of us had literally 15 or 20 of this card. It seems that the good folks at O-Pee-Chee printed an inordinate number of the Gretzky League Leader cards and not enough Don Nachbaur's.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Classic Leaf Photos

I just picked up nice Toronto game program from 1968 that has some nice rare photos inside. Above is a pic of Charlie Conacher handing down his venerable number nine jersey to a young Ted Kennedy. A rare shot of two of hockey's greats.

Below are two shots from the same program of the Leafs of the 1930's out on a fishing/hunting exursion. Pretty cool shots that I hadn't come across before.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...